Home  |  Authors  |  Books  |  Stories  |  What's New  |  How to Get Involved 
   T h e   B a l d w i n   P r o j e c t
     Bringing Yesterday's Classics to Today's Children                 @mainlesson.com
Search This Site Only
 
 
Ten Boys from Dickens by  Kate Dickenson Sweetser

[Illustration] Hundreds of additional titles available for online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics

Learn More
[Illustration]

 

 

PIP


[Illustration]

PIP AND MISS HAVISHAM.

[191] MY father's family name being Pirrip, and my Christian name Philip, my infant tongue could make of both names nothing more explicit than Pip. So I called myself Pip, and came to be called Pip.

My mother and father both being dead, I was brought up by my sister, Mrs. Joe Gargery, who was more than twenty years older than I, and a veritable shrew by nature. She had acquired a great reputation among the neighbours because she had brought me up by hand. Not understanding this expression, and knowing her to have a hard and heavy hand, and to be much in the habit of laying it upon her husband as well as upon me, I supposed that Joe Gargery and I were both brought up by hand.

Joe, her husband, was a mild, good-natured, sweet-tempered, easy-going, foolish, dear fellow, with light curly hair and blue eyes, and he and I were great chums, as well as fellow-sufferers under the rule of my sharp-tongued sister.

One afternoon I was wandering in the church-yard where my mother and father were buried, when I was accosted by a fearful man all in coarse grey, with a great iron on his leg. He wore no hat and had broken shoes, and an old rag tied round his head. He limped and shivered, and glared and growled, his teeth chattering, as he seized me by the chin.

"O don't cut my throat, sir!" I pleaded in terror. "Pray don't do it, sir!"

"Tell us your name," said the man, "quick!"

[192] "Pip, sir,"

"Show us where you live," he said. "Point out the place!"

I pointed to where our village lay, and then the man, after looking at me for a moment, turned me upside down and emptied my pockets, but there was nothing in them except a piece of bread. When the church came to itself, for he was so sudden and strong that he made it go head over heels before me,—I was seated on a high tombstone trembling, while he ate the bread ravenously. Then he came nearer to my tombstone, took me by both arms, and tilted me back as far as he could hold me, looking into my eyes.

"Now lookee here," he said, "you get me a file and you get me wittles; you bring both to me to-morrow morning early, that file and them wittles. You bring the lot to me at that old Battery yonder. You do it, and you never dare to say a word concerning your having seen such a person as me, and you shall be let live. You fail in any partickler and your heart and your liver shall be tore out, roasted and ate! Now I ain't alone, as you may think. There is a young man hid with me who hears the words I speak. It is in wain for a boy to attempt to hide himself from that young man. A boy may lock his door, may be warm in bed, may draw the clothes over his head, may think himself comfortable and safe, but that young man will soon creep and creep his way to him and tear him open. I am a-keeping the young man from harming of you at the present moment with great difficulty. Now what do you say?"

I said I would get him the file and what food I could, and would come to him early in the morning.

"Say, Lord strike me dead, if you don't!"

I said so and he took me down. I faltered a good night, [193] and he turned to go, walking as if he were numb and stiff. When I saw him turn to look once more at me, I made the best use of my legs, having a terrible fear of him, and of the young man, and I ran home without once stopping.

I found the forge shut up and Joe alone in the kitchen. The minute I raised the latch, he said:

"Mrs. Joe has been out a dozen times looking for you, Pip, and she's out now, and what's more, she's got Tickler with her."

At this dismal intelligence I looked with great depression at the fire. Tickler was a wax-ended piece of cane, worn smooth by contact with my tickled frame.

"She sot down," said Joe, "and she got up, and she made a grab at Tickler, and she rampaged out. Now she's a-coming! Go behind the door, old chap!"

I took the advice, but my sister, throwing the door wide open, and finding an obstruction behind it, guessed the cause, and applied Tickler to its further investigation.

"Where have you been, you young monkey?" she asked, stamping her foot; "Tell me directly what you've been doing to wear me away with fret and fright and worrit?"

"I have only been in the church-yard," said I, crying and rubbing myself, but my answer did not satisfy my sister, who kept on scolding and applying Tickler to my person until she was obliged to see to the tea things. Though I was very hungry, I dared not eat my bread and butter, for I felt that I must have something in reserve to take my dreadful acquaintance in case I could find nothing else. Therefore, at a moment when no one was looking, I put a hunk of bread and butter down the leg of my trousers. Joe thought I had eaten it in one gulp, which greatly distressed him, and I was borne off and dosed with tar water.

Conscience is a dreadful thing when it accuses man or boy. [194] The guilty knowledge that I was going to rob Mrs. Joe, united to the necessity of keeping one hand on my bread and butter as I sat or moved about, almost drove me out of my mind, but as it was Christmas Eve, I was obliged to stir the pudding for next day for one whole hour. I tried to do it with the load on my leg, and found the tendency of exercise was to bring the bread out at my ankle, so I managed to slip away and deposit it in my garret room. Later there was a sound of firing in the distance. "Ah," said Joe, "there's another convict off!"

"What does that mean, Joe," said I.

Mrs. Joe answered, "Escaped, escaped," and Joe added,—"There was one off last night, and they fired warning of him. And now it appears they're firing warning of another."

"Who's firing?" said I.

"Drat that boy," said my sister, frowning. "What a questioner he is! Ask no questions and you'll be told no lies!"

I waited a while, and then as a last resort, I said,—"Mrs. Joe, I should like to know—if you wouldn't much mind—where the firing comes from?"

"Lord bless the boy!" she exclaimed, "from [195] the Hulks!"

"Oh-h," said I, looking at Joe, "Hulks! And please what's Hulks?"

"That's the way with this boy," exclaimed my sister, "answer him one question, and he'll ask you a dozen directly. Hulks are prison ships right 'cross the meshes." (We always used that name for marshes in our country.)

"I wonder who's put in prison ships, and why they're put there," said I.

This was too much for Mrs. Joe, who immediately rose. "I tell ye what, young fellow," said she, "I didn't bring you up by hand to badger people's lives out. People are put in the Hulks because they murder and rob and forge and do all sorts of bad; and they always begin by asking questions. Now you get along to bed!"

I was never allowed a candle and as I crept up in the dark I felt fearfully sensible that the Hulks were handy for me. I was clearly on the way there. I had begun by asking questions and I was going to rob Mrs. Joe. I was also in mortal terror of the young man who wanted my heart and liver, and of my acquaintance with the iron on his leg, and if I slept at all that night it was only to imagine myself drifting down the river on a strong spring tide to the Hulks, a ghostly pirate calling out to me through a speaking trumpet that I had better come ashore and be hanged there at once. I was afraid to sleep even if I could have, for I knew that at the first dawn of morning I must rob the pantry and be off.

So as early as possible I crept downstairs to the pantry and secured some bread, some rind of cheese, half a jar of mincemeat, some brandy from a stone bottle which I poured into a bottle of my own and then filled the stone one up with water. I also took a meat bone and a beautiful pork pie. Then I got a file from among Joe's tools, and with this and my other plunder made my way with all dispatch along the river-side. Presently I came upon what I supposed was the man I was searching for, for he too was dressed in coarse gray and had a great iron on his leg, but his face was different.

"It's the young man," I thought, feeling my heart beat fast at the idea. He swore at me as I passed, and tried in a weak way to hit me, but then he ran away and I continued my trip to the Battery, and there was the right man in a ravenous condition. He was gobbling mincemeat, meat-bone, bread, cheese, and pork pie all at once, when he turned suddenly and said:

[196] "You're not a deceiving imp? You brought no one with you?" I answered no, and he resumed his meal, snapping at the food as a dog would do. While he was eating, I ventured to remark that I had met the young man he spoke of, at which the man showed the greatest surprise, and became so violently excited that I was very much afraid of him. I was also afraid of remaining away from home any longer. I told him I must go, but he took no notice, so I thought the best thing I could do was to slip off, which I did.

"And where the deuce ha' you been?" was Mrs. Joe's Christmas salutation.

I said I had been down to hear the carols. "Ah well," observed Mrs. Joe, "you might ha' done worse," and then went on with her work as we were to have company for dinner, and the feast was to be one that occasioned extensive arrangements. My sister had too much to do to go to church, but Joe and I went, arrayed in our Sunday best. When we reached home we found the table laid, Mrs. Joe dressed and the front door unlocked—(it never was at any other time) and everything most splendid. And still not a word about the robbery. The company arrived; Mr. Wopsle, Mr. and Mrs. Hubble, and Uncle Pumblechook, Joe's uncle, who lived in the nearest town and drove his own chaise cart.

Dinner was a brilliant success, but so rich that Uncle Pumblechook was entirely overcome, and was obliged to call for brandy. Oh heavens! he would say it was weak, and I should be lost! I held tight to the leg of the table and awaited my fate. The brandy was poured out and Uncle Pumblechook drank it off. Instantly he sprang to his feet, turned round several times in an appalling, spasmodic whooping-cough dance, and rushed out at the door to the great consternation of the company. Mrs. Joe and Joe ran out and brought him back, and as he sank into his chair he gasped the [197] one word, "Tar!" I had filled up the bottle from the tar-water jug! Oh misery! I knew he would be worse by and by!

"Tar?" cried my sister. "Why how ever could tar come there?" Fortunately at that moment. Uncle Pumblechook called for hot gin and water, and my sister had to employ herself actively in getting it. For the time at least, I was saved. By degrees I became calmer and able to partake of pudding, and was beginning to think I should get over the day, when my sister said, "You must finish with such a delicious present of Uncle Pumblechook's, a savoury pork pie!" She went out to the pantry to get it. I am not certain whether I uttered a shrill yell of terror merely in spirit or in the hearing of the company. I felt that I must run away, so I released the leg of the table and ran for my life. But at the door, I ran head foremost into a party of soldiers ringing down the butt-ends of their muskets on our doorstep. This apparition caused the dinner party to rise hastily, while Mrs. Joe who was re-entering the kitchen, empty-handed, stopped short in her lament of "Gracious goodness, gracious me, what's gone—with the—pie!" and stared at the visitors.

Further acquaintance with the military gentlemen proved that they had not come for me, as I fully expected, but merely to have a pair of hand-cuffs mended, which Joe at once proceeded to do, and while the soldiers waited they stood about the kitchen, and piled their arms in the corner, telling us that they were on the search for the two convicts who had escaped from the prison ships. When Joe's job was done, he proposed that some of us go with them to see the hunt. Only Mr. Wopsle cared to go, and then Joe said he would take me. To this Mrs. Joe merely remarked: "If you bring the boy back, with his head blown to bits with a musket, don't look to me to put it together again!"

[198] The soldiers took a polite leave of the ladies and then we started off, Joe whispering to me, "I'd give a shilling if they'd cut and run, Pip!"

There was no doubt in my mind that the man I had succoured and the other one I had seen, were the convicts in question, and as we went on and on, my heart thumped violently. The man had asked me if I was a deceiving imp. Would he believe now that I had betrayed him?

On we went, and on and on, down banks and up banks, and over gates, hearing the sound of shouting in the distance. As we came nearer to the sound, the soldiers ran like deer. Water was splashing, mud was flying, and oaths were being sworn, and then, "Here are both men!" panted the sergeant, struggling in a ditch. "Surrender, you two! Come asunder!" Other soldiers ran to help, and dragged up from the ditch my convict and the other one. Both were bleeding and panting and struggling, but of course I knew them both directly. While the manacles were being put on their hands, my convict saw me for the first time. I looked at him eagerly, and slightly moved my hands and shook my head, trying to assure him of my innocence, but he did not in any way show me that he understood my gestures. We soon set off, the convicts kept apart, and each surrounded by a separate guard. Mr. Wopsle would have liked to turn back, but Joe was resolved to see it out, so we went on with the party, carrying torches which flared up and lighted our way. We could not go fast because of the lameness of the prisoners, and they were so spent that we had to halt two or three times while they rested. After an hour or two of this travelling, we came to a hut where there was a guard. Here the sergeant made some sort of a report, and an entry in a book, and then the other convict was drafted to go on board the Hulks first. My convict only looked at me once. While we stood in the hut, he [199] looked thoughtfully into the fire. Suddenly he turned to the sergeant and remarked that he wished to say something about his escape, adding that it might prevent some persons being laid under suspicions.

"You can say what you like," returned the sergeant, and the convict continued:

"A man can't starve, at least I can't. I took some wittles up at the village yonder—where the church stands a'most out on the marshes, and I'll tell you where from. From the blacksmith's."

"Halloa, Pip!" said Joe, staring at me.

"It was some broken wittles—and a dram of liquor—and a pie."

"Have you happened to miss such an article as a pie, blacksmith?" asked the sergeant.

"My wife did, at the very moment when you came in. Don't you know, Pip?"

"So," said my convict, looking at Joe, "so you're the blacksmith, are you? Then I'm sorry to say, I've eat your pie."

"God knows you're welcome to it, so far as it was ever mine," returned Joe. "We don't know what you've done, but we wouldn't have you starve to death for it, poor miserable fellow-creature, would we, Pip?"

Something that I had noticed before, clicked in the man's throat, and he turned his back. The boat was ready for him, and we saw him rowed off by a crew of convicts like himself.

We saw the boat go alongside of the Hulks, and we saw the prisoner taken up the side and disappear, and then the excitement was all over. I was so tired and sleepy by that time that Joe took me on his back and carried me home, and when we arrived there I was fast asleep. When at last I was roused by the heat and noise and lights, Joe was relating the story of our expedition and of the convict's confession of his theft from [200] our pantry. This was all I heard that night, for my sister clutched me, as a slumbrous offence to the company's eyesight, and assisted me very forcefully up to bed, and after that the subject of the convict and the robbery was only mentioned on a few occasions when something brought it to mind. In regard to my part of it, I do not recall any tenderness of conscience in reference to Mrs. Joe, when the fear of being found out was lifted off me. But I dearly loved Joe, and it was on my mind that I ought to tell him the whole truth. And yet I did not, fearing that I might lose his love and confidence, and that he would think me worse than I really was. And so he never heard the truth of the matter. At this time I was only odd-boy about the forge, or errand boy for any neighbour who wanted a job done, and in the evenings I went to a school kept by Mr. Wopsle's great-aunt, who used to go to sleep from six to seven every evening, in the society of youth who paid twopence per week each for the improving opportunity of seeing her do it. With her assistance, and the help of her granddaughter, Biddy, I struggled through the alphabet, as if it had been a bramble bush, getting considerably worried and scratched by each letter. After that, the nine figures began to add to my misery, but at last I began to read, write, and cipher on the smallest scale.

One night, about a year after our hunt for the convicts, Joe and I sat together in the chimney corner while I struggled with a letter which I was writing on my slate to Joe, for practice. As we sat there, Joe made the fire and swept the hearth, for we were momentarily expecting Mrs. Joe. It was market day, and she had gone to market with Uncle Pumblechook to assist him in buying such household stuffs and goods as required a woman's judgment. Just as we had completed our preparations, she and Uncle Pumblechook drove up, and came in wrapped up to the eyes, for it was a bitter night.

[201] "Now," said Mrs. Joe, unwrapping herself in haste and excitement, "if this boy ain't grateful to-night, he never will be!"

I looked as grateful as any boy could who had no idea what he was to be grateful about, and after many side remarks addressed to the others, Mrs. Joe informed me that Miss Havisham wished me to go and play at her house for her amusement. "And of course, he's going," added my sister severely, "And he had better play there, or I'll work him!"

I had heard of Miss Havisham, everybody for miles round had heard of her, as an immensely rich and grim old lady, who lived a life of seclusion in a large and dismal house, barricaded against robbers.

"Well, to be sure," said Joe, astounded, "I wonder how she comes to know Pip!"

"Noodle," said my sister, "who said she knew him? Couldn't she ask Uncle Pumblechook if he knew of a boy to go and play there? And couldn't Uncle Pumblechook, being always thoughtful for us, then mention this boy, that I have forever been a willing slave to?" After this she added, "For anything we can tell, the boy's fortune is made by this. Uncle Pumblechook has offered to take him into town to-night and keep him over night, and to take him with his own hands to Miss Havisham's to-morrow morning, and Lor-a-mussy me!" cried my sister. "Here I stand talking, with Uncle Pumblechook waiting, and the mare catching cold at the door, and the boy grimed with dirt from the hair of his head to the sole of his foot!" With that she pounced on me and I was scraped and kneaded, and towelled and thumped, and harrowed and reaped, until I was really quite beside myself. When at last my ablutions were completed, I was put into clean linen of the stiffest [202] character, and in my tightest and fearfullest suit, I was then delivered over to Mr. Pumblechook, who said dramatically: "Boy, be forever grateful to all friends, but especially unto them which brought you up by hand!"

"Good-bye, Joe."

"God bless you, Pip, old chap!"

I had never parted from him before, and what with my feelings, and what with soap-suds, I could at first see no stars from the chaise cart. But they twinkled out one by one without throwing any light on the question why on earth I was going to play at Miss Havisham's, and what on earth I was expected to play at.

I spent the night with Uncle Pumblechook, and the next morning we started off for Miss Havisham's, and within a quarter hour had reached the house, which looked dismal, and had a great many iron bars to it. Some of the windows had been walled up, and the others were rustily barred. There was a court-yard in front which was also barred, so after ringing the bell we had to wait until some one should open it. Presently a window was raised and a voice asked "What name?" to which my conductor replied, "Pumblechook." Then the window was shut, and a very pretty, proud-appearing young lady came down with keys in her hand. She opened the gate to let me in, and Uncle Pumblechook was about to follow, when the young lady remarked that Miss Havisham did not wish to see him. She said it in such an undiscussible way that Uncle Pumblechook dared not protest, and so I followed my young guide in alone and crossed the court-yard. We entered the house by a side door—the great front entrance had chains across it—and we went through many passages, and up a staircase, in the dark except for a single candle. At last we came to the door of a room, and she said, "Go in."

I answered, more in shyness than politeness, "After you, [203] miss." But she answered, "Don't be ridiculous, boy; I am not going in," and scornfully walked away, and what was worse, took the candle with her.

This was most uncomfortable, and I was half afraid. However, there was only one thing to be done, so I knocked at the door, and was told from within to enter. I entered and found myself in a pretty, large room, well lighted with wax candles. No glimpse of daylight was to be seen in it. It was a dressing-room, as I supposed from the furniture, though much of it was of forms and uses quite unknown to me then. But prominent in it was a draped table with a gilded looking-glass, and that I made out to be a fine lady's dressing-table.

In an arm chair sat the strangest lady I have ever seen or shall ever see. She was dressed in rich white—in satin and lace and silks—all of white. Even her shoes were white, and she had a long white veil dependent from her hair, and bridal flowers in her hair,—and the hair, too, was white. Some bright jewels sparkled on her neck and hands and others lay sparkling on the table. Dresses, less splendid than the one she wore, and half-packed trunks, were scattered about. She had but one shoe on and the other was on the table near by—her veil was but half arranged; her watch and chain were not put on; and there were lace, trinkets, handkerchief, gloves, some flowers, and a Prayer-book in a heap before the looking-glass. Then she spoke, "Who is it?"

"Pip, ma'am."

"Pip?"

"Mr. Pumblechook's boy, ma'am. Come—to play."

"Come nearer; let me look at you. Come close."

When I stood before her, avoiding her eyes, I took in all the details of the room and saw that her watch and clock had both stopped.

"Look at me," said Miss Havisham. "You are not [204] afraid of a woman who has not seen the sun since you were born?"

I regret to say that I was not afraid of telling the enormous lie comprehended in the answer, "No."

"Do you know what I touch here?" she said, laying her hands on her left side.

"Yes, ma'am."

"What do I touch?"

"Your heart."

"Broken."

She said the word eagerly, and with a weird smile that had a kind of boast in it.

"I am tired," said Miss Havisham. "I have a sick fancy that I want to see some play. I want diversion, and I have done with men and women. There, there," with an impatient movement of the fingers of her right hand, "play, play, play!"

For a moment, with the fear of my sister "working me" before my eyes, I had a desperate idea of starting round the room in the assumed character of Mr. Pumblechook's chaise cart. But I felt so unequal to the performance that I gave it up, and stood looking at Miss Havisham in what I suppose she took for a dogged manner, and presently she said:

"Are you sullen and obstinate?"

"No, ma'am," I said. "I am very sorry for you and very sorry I can't play just now. If you complain of me, I shall get into trouble with my sister, so I would do it, if I could, but it's new here, and so strange and so fine, and—melancholy." I stopped, fearing I might have said too much, and we took another look at each other. Before she spoke again, she looked at herself in the glass, then she turned, and flashing a look at me, said, "Call Estella. You can do that. Call Estella. At the door."

[205] To stand in the dark in the mysterious passage of an unknown house, bawling "Estella" to a scornful young lady neither visible nor responsive, and feeling it a dreadful liberty to roar out her name, was almost as bad as playing to order. But she answered at last, and her light came trembling along the dark passage, like a star. Miss Havisham beckoned her to come close to her, took up a jewel, and tried its effect against the pretty brown hair. "Your own, one day, my dear," she said, "and you will use it well. Let me see you play cards with this boy."

"With this boy! Why, he is a common labouring boy!" then she asked, with greatest disdain, "What do you play, boy?"

"Nothing but 'beggar my neighbour,' miss."

"Beggar him," said Miss Havisham to Estella. So we sat down to cards, and Miss Havisham sat, corpse-like, watching as we played.

"He calls the knaves Jacks, this boy," said Estella, with disdain, before the first game was out. "And what coarse hands he has, and what thick boots!"

I had never thought of being ashamed of my hands before, but now I began to notice them. Her contempt for me was so strong that I caught it.

She won the game, and I dealt. I misdealt, as was only natural, when I knew she was lying in wait for me to do wrong, and she denounced me for a clumsy, stupid, labouring boy.

"You say nothing of her," remarked Miss Havisham to me. "She says many hard things of you, yet you say nothing of her. What do you think of her?"

"I don't like to say," I stammered.

"Tell me in my ear," said Miss Havisham, bending down.

"I think she is very proud," I replied in a whisper—"and very pretty—and very insulting."

[206] "Anything else?"

"I think I should like to go home."

"You shall go soon," said Miss Havisham aloud. "Play the game out!" I played the game to an end, and Estella beggared me.

"When shall I have you here again?" said Miss Havisham. "I know nothing of the days of the week or of the weeks of the year. Come again after six days. You hear?"

"Yes, ma'am."

"Estella, take him down. Let him have something to eat, and let him roam about and look about him while he eats. Go, Pip."

I followed Estella down as I had followed her up, and at last I stood again in the glare of daylight which quite confounded me, for I felt as if I had been in the candle-light of the strange room many hours.

"You are to wait here, you boy, you," said Estella, and disappeared in the house. While she was gone I looked at my coarse hands and my common boots, and they troubled me greatly.

I determined to ask Joe why he had taught me to call the picture-cards Jacks. I wished Joe had been rather more genteelly brought up, and then I should have been so too. Estella came back with some bread and meat and a little mug of beer which she set down as insolently as if I were a dog in disgrace. I was so humiliated and hurt that tears sprang to my eyes. When she saw them she looked at me with a quick delight. This gave me the power to keep them back and to look at her; then she gave a contemptuous toss of her head, and left me to my meal. At first, so bitter were my feelings that, after she was gone, I hid behind one of the gates to the brewery and cried. As I cried I kicked the wall and took a hard twist at my hair. However, I came out from behind the gate, [207] the bread and meat were acceptable and the beer was warm and tingling, and I was soon in spirits to look about me. I had surveyed the rank old garden when Estella came back with the keys to let me out. She gave me a triumphant look as she opened the gate. I was passing out without looking at her, when she touched me with a taunting cry,——

"Why don't you cry?"

"Because I don't want to."

"You do," she said; "you have been crying and you are near crying now!" As she spoke she laughed, pushed me out, and locked the gate upon me, and I set off on the four-mile walk home, pondering as I went along, on what I had seen and heard.

Of course, when I reached home they were very curious to know all about Miss Havisham's, and asked many questions that I was not in a mood to answer. The worst of it was that Uncle Pumblechook, devoured by curiosity, came gaping over too at tea-time to have the details divulged to him. I was not in a good humour anyway that night, so the sight of my tormentors made me vicious in my reticence.

After asking a number of questions with no satisfaction, Uncle Pumblechook began again.

"Now, boy," he said, "what was Miss Havisham a-doing of when you went in to-day?"

"She was sitting," I answered, "in a black velvet coach."

My hearers stared at one another—as they well might—and repeated, "In a black velvet coach?"

"Yes," said I, "and Miss Estella, that's her niece, I think, handed her in cake and wine at the coach window on a gold plate. And we all had cake and wine on gold plates. And I got up behind the coach to eat mine because she told me to."

"Was anybody else there?" asked Mr. Pumblechook.

"Four dogs," said I.

[208] "Large or small?"

"Immense," said I. "And they fought for veal cutlets out of a silver basket."

My hearers stared at one another again in utter amazement. I was perfectly frantic and would have told them anything.

"Where was this coach, in the name of gracious?" asked my sister.

"In Miss Havisham's room." They stared again. "But there weren't any horses to it." I added this saving clause in the moment of rejecting four richly caparisoned coursers, which I had had wild thoughts of harnessing.

"Can this be possible, uncle?" asked Mrs. Joe. "What can the boy mean?"

"I'll tell you, mum," said Mr. Pumblechook. "My opinion is it is a sedan-chair. Well, boy, and what did you play at?"

"We played with flags," I said.

"Flags!" echoed my sister.

"Yes," said I. "Estella waved a blue flag, and I waved a red one, and Miss Havisham waved one sprinkled all over with little gold stars, out at the coach window. And then we all waved our swords and hurrahed."

"Swords!" repeated my sister. "Where did you get swords from?"

"Out of the cupboard," said I. "And I saw pistols in it—and jam—and pills. And there was only candlelight in the room."

If they had asked me any more questions I should undoubtedly have betrayed myself for I was just on the point of mentioning that there was a balloon in the yard and should have hazarded the statement, but that my invention was divided between that phenomenon and a bear in the brewery.

[209] My hearers were so much occupied, however, in discussing the marvels I had already presented to them, that I escaped. The subject still held them when Joe came in, and my experiences were at once related to him. Now, when I saw his big blue eyes open in helpless amazement, I became penitent, but only in regard to him. And so, after Mr. Pumblechook had driven off, and my sister was busy, I stole into the forge and confessed my guilt.

"You remember all that about Miss Havisham's?" I said.

"Remember!" said Joe. "I believe you! Wonderful!"

"It's a terrible thing, Joe. It ain't true."

"What are you a-telling of, Pip?" cried Joe. "You don't mean to say it!"

"Yes, I do;—it's lies, Joe."

"But not all of it? Why, sure you don't mean to say, Pip, that there was no black welvet co-ch?" For I stood there shaking my head. "But at least there was dogs, Pip? Come, Pip, if there warn't no weal cutlets, at least there was dogs? A puppy, come."

"No, Joe," I said. "There was nothing of the kind."

As I fixed my eyes hopelessly on him, he looked at me in dismay. "Pip, old chap," he said, "this won't do, I say. Where do you expect to go to? What possessed you?"

"I don't know what possessed me," I replied, hanging my head, "but I wish you hadn't taught me to call knaves at cards Jacks, and I wish my boots weren't so thick, nor my hands so coarse."

Then I told Joe that I felt very miserable, but I hadn't liked to tell Mrs. Joe and Uncle Pumblechook about the beautiful young lady at Miss Havisham's who was so proud, and that she had said I was common, and that I wished I was not common, and that the lies had come out of it somehow, though I didn't know how.

[210] "Well," said Joe after a good deal of thought, "there's one thing you may be sure of, Pip, namely, that lies is lies. Howsoever they come, they didn't ought to come, and they come from the father of lies and work round to the same. Don't you tell no more of 'em, Pip. They ain't the way to get out of being common, old chap. And as to being common, I don't make it out at all clear. You're sure an uncommon scholar."

This I denied in the face of Joe's most forcible arguments, and at the end of our talk, I said, "You are not angry with me, Joe?"

"No, old chap, but if you can't get to being uncommon through going straight, you'll never get to do it through going crooked. So don't tell no more on 'em, Pip. Don't never do it no more."

When I got up to my little room and said my prayers, I thought over Joe's advice and knew that it was right, and yet my mind was in such a disturbed and unthankful state, that for a long time I lay awake, not thinking over my sins, but still mourning that Joe and Mrs. Joe and I were all common.

That was a memorable day for me, and it wrought great changes in me. I began to see things and people from a new point of view, and from that day dates the beginning of my great expectations.

One night, a little later, I was at the village Public House with Joe, who was smoking his pipe with friends. In the room there was a stranger, who, when he heard me addressed as Pip, turned and looked at me. He kept looking hard at me, and nodding at me, and I returned his nods as politely as possible. Presently, after seeing that Joe was not looking, he nodded again and then rubbed his leg—in a very odd way, it struck me—and later, he stirred his rum and water pointedly at me, and he tasted it pointedly at me. And he did both, not [211] with the spoon but with a file. He did this so that nobody but I saw the file, and then he wiped it and put it in his pocket I knew it to be Joe's file, and I knew that he was my convict the minute I saw the instrument. I sat gazing at him, spell-bound, but he took very little more notice of me; only when Joe and I started to go, he stopped us.

"Stop half a minute, Mr. Gargery," he said; "I think I've got a bright shilling somewhere in my pocket; if I have, the boy shall have it." He took it out, folded it in some crumpled paper and gave it to me. "Yours," said he. "Mind—your own!" I thanked him, staring at him beyond the bounds of good manners, and holding tight to Joe, and then we went towards home, I in a manner stupefied, and thinking only of this turning up of my old misdeed and old acquaintance.

We found my sister was not in a very bad temper, and Joe was encouraged to tell her about the shilling. I took it out of the paper to show her. "But what's this?" she said, catching up the paper. It was nothing less than two one-pound notes! Joe caught up his hat and ran with them to the Public House to restore them to their owner, only to find that he had gone. Then my sister sealed them up in a piece of paper, and put them on the top of a press in the state parlour, and there they remained.

On the appointed day I returned to Miss Havisham, and as before, was admitted by Estella. As we went up stairs we met a gentleman groping his way down. He was bald, with a large head and bushy black eyebrows. His eyes were deep set and disagreeably keen. He was nothing to me, but I observed him well as he passed.

Estella led me this time into another part of the house, and into a gloomy room where there were some other people, saying,——

"You are to go and stand there, boy, till you are wanted."

[212] "There" being the window, I crossed to it and stood looking out, at a deserted house and old garden, in a very uncomfortable state of mind. There were three ladies and one gentleman in the room, who all stopped talking and looked at me. Later I found out that they were particular friends of Miss Havisham. The ringing of a distant bell caused Estella to say, "Now, boy!" and to conduct me to Miss Havisham's room, leaving me near the door, where I stood until Miss Havisham cast her eyes upon me.

"Are you ready to play?" she asked.

I answered, in some confusion, "I don't think I am, ma'am, except at cards; I could do that if I was wanted."

She looked searchingly at me and then asked, "If you are unwilling to play, boy, are you willing to work?"

As I answered this in the affirmative, she presently laid a hand on my shoulder. In the other she had a stick on which she leaned, and she looked like the witch of the place. She looked all round the room in a glaring manner, and then said, "Come, come, come! walk me, walk me!"

From this I made out that my work was to walk Miss Havisham round and round the room. Accordingly I started at once and she leaned on my shoulder. She was not strong, and soon she said, "Slower!" Still she went at a fitful, impatient speed, and the hand on my shoulder twitched. After a while she bade me call Estella, and on we started again round the room. If she had been alone I should have been sufficiently embarrassed, but as she brought with her the visitors, I didn't know what to do. I would have stopped, but Miss Havisham twitched my shoulder, and we posted on,—I feeling shamefaced embarrassment. The visitors remained for some time, and after they left Miss Havisham directed us to play cards as before, and as before, Estella treated me with cold scorn. After half a dozen games, a day was set for my return, [213] and I was taken into the yard to be fed in the former dog-like manner. Prowling about, I scrambled over the wall into the deserted garden that I had seen from the window. I supposed the house belonging to it was empty, and to my surprise I was confronted by the vision of a pale young gentleman with red eyelids and light hair, in a window, who speedily came down and stood beside me.

"Halloa!" said he; "young fellow, who let you in?"

"Miss Estella."

"Who gave you leave to prowl about? Come and fight," said the pale young gentleman.

What could I do but follow him? His manner was so final and I was so astonished that I followed where he led, as if under a spell. "Stop a minute, though," he said, "I ought to give you a reason for fighting too. There it is!" In a most irritating manner he slapped his hands against one another, flung one of his legs up behind him, pulled my hair, dipped his head and butted it into my stomach. This bull-like proceeding, besides that it was unquestionably to be regarded in the light of a liberty, was particularly disagreeable just after bread and meat. I therefore hit out at him and was going to hit out again, when he said, "Aha! Would you?" and began dancing backwards and forwards in a manner quite unparalleled within my limited experience.

"Laws of the game!" said he. Here he skipped from his left leg on to his right. "Regular rules!" Here he skipped from his right leg on to his left. "Come to the ground and go through the preliminaries!" Here he dodged backwards and forwards, and did all sorts of things, while I looked helplessly at him. I was secretly afraid of him, but I felt convinced that his light head of hair could have had no business in the pit of my stomach. Therefore I followed him without a word, to a retired nook of the garden. On his ask- [214] ing me if I was satisfied with the ground, and on my replying "Yes," he fetched a bottle of water and a sponge dipped in vinegar, and then fell to pulling off, not only his jacket and waistcoat, but his shirt too, in a manner at once light-hearted, business-like, and bloodthirsty.

My heart failed me when I saw him squaring at me with every demonstration of mechanical nicety, and eyeing my anatomy as if he were minutely choosing his bone. I never have been so surprised in my life as I was when I let out the first blow and saw him lying on his back, with a bloody nose and his face exceedingly foreshortened. But he was on his feet directly, and after sponging himself began squaring again. The second greatest surprise I have ever had in my life was seeing him on his back again, looking up at me out of a black eye. His spirit inspired me with great respect. He was always knocked down, but he would be up again in a moment, sponging himself or drinking out of the water bottle, and then came at me with an air and a show that made me believe he really was going to do for me at last. He got heavily bruised, for I am sorry to record that the more I hit him, the harder I hit him, but he came up again, and again, and again, until at last he got a bad fall with the back of his head against the wall. Even after that he got up and turned round and round confusedly a few times, not knowing where I was, but finally went on his knees to his sponge and threw it up, panting out, "That means you have won!"

He seemed so brave and innocent, that although I had not proposed the contest, I felt but a gloomy satisfaction in my victory. Indeed, I go so far as to hope that I regarded myself as a species of savage young wolf or other wild beast. However, I got dressed, and I said, "Can I help you?" and he said, "No, thankee," and I said, "Good afternoon," and he said, "Same to you!"

[215] When I got into the courtyard I found Estella waiting with the keys to let me out. What with the visitors, and what with the cards, and what with the fight, my stay had lasted so long that when I neared home the light on the spit of sand off the point on the marshes was gleaming against a black night-sky, and Joe's furnace was flinging a path of fire across the road.

When the day came for my return to the scene of my fight with the pale young gentleman, I became very much afraid as I recalled him on his back in various stages of misery, and the more I thought about it, the more certain I felt that his blood would be on my head and that the law would avenge it, and I felt that I never could go back. However, go to Miss Havisham's I must, and go I did. And behold, nothing came of the late struggle! The pale young gentleman was nowhere to be seen, and only in the corner where the combat had taken place could I detect any evidences of his existence. There were traces of his gore in that spot, and I covered them with garden-mould from the eye of men, and breathed more quietly again.

That same day I began on a regular occupation of pushing Miss Havisham in a light garden chair (when she was tired of walking with her hand on my shoulder) round through the rooms. Over and over and over again we made these journeys, sometimes lasting for three hours at a stretch, and from that time I returned to her every alternate day at noon for that purpose, and kept returning through a period of eight or ten months. As we began to be more used to one another, Miss Havisham talked more to me, and asked me many questions about myself. I told her I believed I was to be apprenticed to Joe, and enlarged on knowing nothing, and wanting to know everything, hoping that she might offer me some help. But she did not, on the contrary she seemed to prefer my being ignorant. Nor did she give me any money, nor anything but [216] my daily dinner. Estella always let me in and out. Sometimes she would coldly tolerate me, sometimes condescend to me, sometimes be quite familiar with me, and at other times she would tell me that she hated me; and all the time my admiration for her grew apace.

There was a song Joe used to hum at the forge, of which the burden was "Old Clem." The song imitated the beating upon iron. Thus you were to hammer;—Boys round—Old Clem! With a thump and a sound—Old Clem! Beat it out, beat it out—Old Clem! With a clink for the stout—Old Clem! Blow the fire, blow the fire—Old Clem! Roaring dryer, soaring higher—Old Clem! One day I was crooning this ditty as I pushed Miss Havisham about. It happened to catch her fancy and she took it up in a low brooding voice. After that it became customary with us to sing it as we moved about, and often Estella joined in, though the whole strain was so subdued that it made less noise in the grim old house than the lightest breath of wind. How could my character fail to be influenced by such surroundings? Is it to be wondered at if my thoughts were dazed, as my eyes were, when I came out into the natural light from the misty yellow rooms?

We went on this way for a long time, but one day Miss Havisham stopped short as she and I were walking and said, with displeasure: "You are growing tall, Pip!"

In answer I suggested that this might be a thing over which I had no control, and she said no more at that time, but on the following day she said:

"Tell me the name again of the blacksmith of yours to whom you were to be apprenticed?"

"Joe Gargery, ma'am,"

"You had better be apprenticed at once. Would Gargery come here with you, and bring your indentures, do you think?"

[217] I signified that I thought he would consider it an honour to be asked.

"Then let him come!"

"At any particular time, Miss Havisham?"

"There, there, I know nothing about time. Let him come soon, and come alone with you!"

In consequence, two days later, Joe, arrayed in his Sunday clothes, set out with me to visit Miss Havisham, and as he thought his court dress necessary to the occasion, it was not for me to tell him that he looked far better in his working dress. We arrived at Miss Havisham's, and as usual Estella opened the door, and led the way to Miss Havisham's room. She immediately addressed Joe, asking him questions about himself and about having me for apprentice and finally she asked to see my indentures, which Joe produced; I am afraid I was ashamed of the dear good fellow—I know I was when I saw Estella's eyes were laughing mischievously.

Miss Havisham then took a little bag from the table and handed it to me.

"Pip has earned a premium here," she said, "and here it is. There are five and twenty guineas in the bag. Give it to your Master, Pip."

I handed it to Joe, who said a few embarrassed words of gratitude to Miss Havisham.

"Good-bye, Pip," she said. "Let them out, Estella."

"Am I to come again, Miss Havisham?" I asked.

"No—Gargery is your master now. Gargery! One word!" Joe stepped back and she added, "The boy has been a good boy here, and that is his reward. Of course, as an honest man, you will expect no other."

Then we went down, and in a moment we were outside of the gate, and it was locked and Estella was gone. When we stood in the daylight alone, Joe backed up against a wall, [218] breathless with amazement, and repeated at intervals, "Astonishing! Pip, I do assure you this is as-ton-ishing!" Then we walked away, back to Mr. Pumblechook's, where we found my sister, and told her the great news of my earnings, and she was as much pleased as was possible for her to be.

It is a miserable thing to feel ashamed of home, I assure you. To me home had never been a very pleasant place on account of sister's temper, but Joe had sanctified it, and I believed in it. I had believed in the Best Parlour, as a most elegant place, I had believed in the Front Door as a mysterious portal of the Temple of State, I had believed in the kitchen as a chaste though not magnificent apartment; I had believed in the forge, as the glowing road to manhood and independence. Within a single year all this was changed. Now it was all coarse and common to me, and I would not have had Miss Havisham and Estella see it for the world. Once it had seemed to me that as Joe's apprentice I should be distinguished and happy. Now I regret to say that I was as dejected and miserable as was possible to be, and in my ungracious breast there was a shame of all that surrounded me.

Toward the end of my first year as Joe's apprentice I suggested that I go and call on Miss Havisham. He thought well of it, and so I went.

Everything was unchanged, except that a strange young woman came to the door, and I found that Estella was abroad being educated, and Miss Havisham was alone.

"Well," said she. "I hope you want nothing; you'll get nothing!"

"No, indeed," I replied, "I only want you to know that I am doing very well and am always much obliged to you." We had little other conversation, and soon she dismissed me, and as the gate closed on me, I felt more than ever dissatisfied with my home, and my trade, and with everything!

[219] When I reached home, some one hastened out to tell me that the house had been entered during my absence, and that my sister had been attacked and badly injured. Nothing had been taken from the house, but my sister had been struck a terrible blow, and lay very ill in bed for months, and when at last she could come down stairs again her mind was never quite clear, and she was unable to speak. So it was necessary to have Biddy come and take up the house-keeping, and meanwhile I kept up the routine of my apprenticeship-life, varied only by the arrival of my several birthdays, on each of which I paid another visit to Miss Havisham.

On a Saturday night, in the fourth year of my apprenticeship to Joe, he and I sat by a fire at the inn—the Three Jolly Bargemen, with a group of men. One of them was a strange gentleman who entered into the discussion on hand with zest, and then, rising, stood before the fire. "From information I have received," said he, looking round, "I have reason to believe there is a blacksmith among you, by name Joseph Gargery. Which is the man?"

"Here is the man," said Joe.

The gentleman beckoned him out of his place, and said: "You have an apprentice called Pip. Is he here?"

To this I responded in the affirmative. The stranger did not recognise me, but I recognised him as the gentleman I had met on the stairs on my second visit to Miss Havisham. I had known him from the moment I had first been confronted with his bushy eyebrows and black eyes.

"I wish to have a private conference with you both," he said. "Perhaps we had better go to your house to have it."

So, in a wondering silence, we walked away with him towards home, and when we got there Joe let us in by the front door, and our conference was held in the state parlour.

The stranger proceeded to tell us that he was a lawyer, [220] Jaggers by name, and that he was the bearer of an offer to Joe, which was, that he should cancel my indentures, at my request, and for my good. He went on to say that his communication was to the effect that I had Great Expectations. Joe and I gasped and looked at one another as Mr. Jaggers continued:

"I am instructed to tell Pip that he will come into a handsome property, and that it is the desire of the present owner of that property that he be at once removed from here, and be brought up as befits a young gentleman of Great Expectations."

My dream was out! My wild fancy was realised; Miss Havisham was going to make my fortune on a grand scale.

I listened breathlessly while Mr. Jaggers added that my benefactor wished me to keep always the name of Pip, and also that the name of the benefactor was to remain a secret until such time as the person chose to reveal it. After stating these conditions, Mr. Jaggers paused, and asked if I had any objections to complying with them, to which I stammered that I had not, and Mr. Jaggers continued that he had been made my guardian, that he would provide me with a sum of money ample for my education and maintenance, and that he should advise my residing in London, and having as tutor one Matthew Pocket, whom I had heard mentioned by Miss Havisham.

"First," continued Mr. Jaggers, "you should have some new clothes. You will want some money. I will leave you twenty guineas, and will expect you in London on this day week."

He produced a purse and counted out the money, then eyeing Joe, he said, "Well, Joe Gargery, you look dumbfounded?"

"I am!" said Joe, with decision.

"Well," said Mr. Jaggers, "what if I were to make you a present as compensation?"

[221] "For what?" said Joe.

"For the loss of the boy's services."

Joe laid a hand on my shoulder with the touch of a woman, saying:

"Pip is that hearty welcome to go free with his services, to honour and fortune, as no words can tell him! But if you think as money can make compensation to me for the loss of the little child what come to the forge,—and ever the best of friends—-"

O dear, good Joe, whom I was so ready to leave, and so unthankful to—I see you again to-day, and in a very different light. I feel the loving tremble of your hand upon my arm as solemnly to-day as if it had been the rustle of an angel's wing. But, at the time, I was lost in the mazes of my good fortune, and thought of nothing else, and as Joe remained firm on the money question, Mr. Jaggers rose to go, giving me a few last instructions for reaching London.

Then he left and we vacated the state parlour at once for the kitchen, where my sister and Biddy were sitting. I told the news of my great expectations and received congratulations, which had in them a touch of sadness which I rather resented.

That night Joe stayed out on the doorstep, smoking a pipe much later than usual, which seemed to hint to me that he wanted comforting, for some reason, but in my arrogant happiness, I could not understand his feelings.

During the next week I was very busy making my preparations to leave. With some assistance I selected a suit, and went also to the hatter's and boot-maker's and hosier's, and also engaged my place on the Saturday morning coach. Then I went to make my farewells to Uncle Pumblechook, whom I found awaiting me with pride and impatience, for the news had reached him. He shook hands with me at least a hundred times, and blessed me, and stood waving his hand at me until [222] I passed out of sight. It was now Friday, and I dressed up in my new clothes to make a farewell visit to Miss Havisham. I felt awkward and self-conscious, and rang the bell constrainedly on account of the still long fingers of my new gloves. Miss Havisham received me as usual, and I explained to her that I was to start for London on the morrow, and that I had come into a fortune, for which I was more grateful than I could express. She asked me a number of questions, and then said:

"Well, you have a promising career before you. Be good, deserve it, and abide by Mr. Jagger's instructions. Good-bye, Pip." She stretched out her hand, and I knelt down and kissed it,—and so I left my fairy god-mother, with both her hands on her crutch-stick, standing in the middle of the dimly-lighted room.

I little dreamed then that it was not to her that I owed my Great Expectations, but to my older acquaintance, the convict, for whom I had robbed my sister's larder long ago. But of this I little dreamed, and knew nothing until years later.

And now the six days had gone, and to-morrow looked me in the face. As my departure drew near I became more appreciative of the society of my family. On this last evening I dressed myself in my new clothes for their delight, and sat in my splendour until bedtime. We had a hot supper on the occasion, and pretended to be in high spirits, although none of us were.

All night my broken sleep was filled with fantastic visions, and I arose early and sat by my window, taking a last look at the familiar view. Then came an early, hurried breakfast, and then I kissed my sister and Biddy, and threw my arms around Joe's neck, took up my little portmanteau, and walked out. Presently I heard a scuffle behind me, and there was Joe, throwing an old shoe after me. I waved my hat, and dear old Joe waved his arm over his head, crying huskily, "Hooroar!"

[223] I walked away rapidly then, thinking it was not so hard to go, after all. But then came a thought of the peaceful village where I had been so care-free and innocent, and beyond was the great unknown world,—and in a moment, I broke into tears, sobbing:

"Good-bye, oh my dear, dear friend!" I was better after that, more sorry, more aware of my ingratitude to Joe, more gentle.

So subdued was I by my tears that when I was on the coach, I deliberated, with an aching heart, whether I should not get down when we changed horses, and walk back for one more evening at home and a better parting, but while I was still deliberating, we went on, and changed again, and then it was too late and too far for me to go back, and I must go on. And the mists had all solemnly risen about me now, and the world lay spread before me, and I must go on. And so my boyhood came to an end, and the first stage of my Great Expectations was over.


 Table of Contents  |  Index  | Previous: Paul Dombey 
Copyright (c) 2000-2017 Yesterday's Classics, LLC. All Rights Reserved.